Is Your Site Designed for New or Repeat Visitors?

February 12, 2019

Melissa Leide

What if you could create two websites for your business? One would be for people new to interacting with your company and the other for visitors already engaged with your brand. Would you design these pages very differently? Wouldn’t they be very distinct from one another in their navigation, their data density, their focus on calls to action, and even their presentation of your brand?

Of course, you could literally do this… create two separate sites, each specifically designed for one segment of your audience.

There could be major upsides for the user experience and brand interaction of visitors who land on the page designed to appeal to them. But there’s no way to know if a user will land on the “right” site and not the one designed for someone else, and maintaining multiple sites is a poor use of resources.                                                                                                                                                                   

For companies looking to optimize their website for user experience, there are better ways to create a web experience that puts the user at the forefront, but first they need to make one major change in how they perceive their users. They need to think differently about how they segment their users in the first place.

Traditional Segmentations

As companies try to understand what motivates their website visitors, they will often separate their users into distinct “Identities”. Usually, this happens in one of two established ways.

  1. Users are grouped based on their user persona (their role within their own organization).
  2. Users are grouped by their industry segment (the type of organization they represent).

Building upon these user profiles, website owners can then create experiences tailored to the needs of each user group.

Both of these segmentation methods use broad constructs that companies create during the Sales and Marketing process, but they aren’t necessarily the best ways to segment website visitors. Focusing on traditional segmentations can also lead to placing an inordinate focus on new users for simple reasons of scarcity. Site real estate is always at a premium. When persona-focused design and messaging take top of mind there may be little opportunity left to focus on different levels of brand engagement.

A Better Way

We think a better, more user-centric web experience comes from targeting user experiences based on whether they are first-time visitors or repeat users. Targeting by visitor history in this way is effective because it applies one aspect of the user experience that is fundamental and applies to every visitor, regardless of their user persona or their industry:

Each user’s needs as a site visitor will change over time.

The Evolving Needs of Visitors

Think about the differing needs of visitors as they engage with your brand.

  • Users just discovering your company need to quickly understand who you are and what you do.
  • Existing customers and known contacts need efficient ways to find the specific things that brought them back to your site.

And for everyone visiting, you need to be concerned with providing a user experience that’s not only positive but is tailored to their specific needs.

Targeting the Repeat Visitor

For most organizations, the fundamental change from how they do business now will be that they need to devote more of their website design to supporting the needs of repeat visitors. This mindset of “equal time” for returning users needs to be integrated into the design process from the very start. It needs to displace the widespread practice of focusing all design choices on serving the new user and driving them toward conversion.

For Superior Experience

In the end, a user’s past history on your site provides a better and more-fundamental indicator of their needs as a website user than any role-based or industry-based segmentation.

Segmenting new from returning users may be the single-most-impactful way to group users because it informs multiple decisions for optimizing their web experience. The outcome for many site owners will be new sites that balance their design to support better user experiences for the repeat users that are already engaged with your brand.

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